I’ve been a huge sports fan for all of my life. I’m pretty sure I was born wearing a glove and dribbling a basketball. There aren’t many things that excite me as much as a good game of baseball, basketball, football, or hockey. I’ve played them. I’ve coached them. I’ve watched them. And this year, even though my Phoenix Suns didn’t make it, I’ve been really into the NBA Playoffs. 16 teams make it, but only one will remain, holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy at the end. In my opinion it’s the best reality show on television, not just for the excitement, but for the little things you can learn along the way. Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from this year’s NBA Playoffs:
Age is nothing but a number.
This year’s playoffs have featured successful teams no matter their age. Miami is in the finals, and they are the oldest team in the league. Dallas is also in the finals, and they are the third oldest. Oklahoma City made it to the Western Conference finals, and they are the third youngest. Too often we can limit ourselves because of our age. We run away from challenges because we think we are too young or too old, but as the scriptures tell us, “Say not, ‘I am too young.’ To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak” (Jer. 1:7). God has a plan for our lives, regardless of age; all we are called to do is be faithful to it.
No matter how talented you are you still have to hustle.
We have seen a lot of talent in this year’s playoffs. There’s Dirk Nowitzski’s jump shot, Derrick Rose’s speed, and Kevin Durant’s ability to score. While these are all impressive gifts, they are nothing without hustle. Hustle is what brings our gifts to life. Try watching a game in this year’s NBA Finals without seeing Dwayne Wade dive into the stands for a loose ball or LeBron James run the length of the court to chase down an opposing player. If you want to be successful at something, you’re going to have to hustle. Talent alone is not enough. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, St. Paul says, “Run so as to win.” This applies to not only sports, but life as well. No matter what goals we may have, they will not be achieved without hustle.
You don’t always have to be a star to play a major role.
Most of us probably know the names LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. They are two superstars that drive the engine that is the Miami Heat. But, have you heard the name Udonis Haslem? He’s a Power Forward for the Heat, and many sports analysts believe that had he not played in Miami’s series against Chicago, that they would have lost. His ability to play defense, rebound, and hustle don’t always show up in the box score, but they changed the series when he played in Game 2 against the Bulls. Sometimes we can get discouraged when we are not in the limelight or receiving all the attention for something. We know that even some of Jesus’ disciples struggled with this (Mark 10:35-45). But, the reality is, God is the one who should receive all the glory. Our role is to simply support His mission in whatever way He asks.
As great as basketball is, it’s still just a game.
I will be the first to admit that I need to be reminded of this often. When my team wins, I can be the most joyful person you’ve ever met, but if my team loses I feel miserable. Sports and competition are great, but they shouldn’t control our entire lives. Win or lose, life goes on, and there are more important things. And if you can’t think of any, try these: God, family, school, friends, or your career.
Jesus is still the real “King”.
Many nicknames are given to players during their career. There was Michael “Air” Jordan, Karl “The Mailman” Malone, and my personal favorite Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. But none of these really seem as self-gratifying as LeBron James’ nickname, “The King.” Whether you love him or strongly dislike him, someone should let him know that there is only one real “King”, and He’s the “King of Kings” (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 19:16). While it’s ok to have athletes as heroes or people we look up to, let’s always remember our true hero, the one we should be looking up to first and foremost: Jesus Christ, who came down to us that we may rise with Him.
Regardless of who you are cheering for in this year’s NBA Finals: Dallas or Miami, I hope you can enjoy them for what they are: a great competition between some highly talented people. And, whether your team wins or loses, it’s just a game. Learn some lessons along the way, and don’t forget, there’s more to life.